« הקודםהמשך »
blessing and the curse which the Lord had sat before
and cried unto the LORD, who delivered them from their distress by the most unexpected means.
By the end of the fourscore years the people of Israel had again arrived at such a pitch of wickedness, that the Lord saw fit to punish them, by delivering them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, the captain of whose host was Sisera. He had under his command a very great army, in which were nine hundred chariots of iron; and for twenty years he mightily oppressed Israel *. Deborah the prophetess judged Israel at that time.
Deborah was a woman of extraordinary understand. ing and fortitude ; she was likewise endued with the gift of prophecy, by which God.enabled her to foretel some events which he intended shortly to bring to pass. Probably her wise 'admonitions inspired of God had brought the people to repentance: and they had recourse to her, in order to obtain advice and to intreat her prayers
to God in their behalf. By the command of the LORD, Deborah sent for Barak, and codenanded him in the name of the LORD to assemble an army of ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun, and go against Sisera, assuring him that the LORD would deliver Sisera into his hands.
Barak, being diffident of himself, refused to go on this enterprize unless the prophetess would accompany him. This Deborah consented to do; but told hina that for his distrust of the LORD, he should lose the honour of destroying Sisera, and a woman should ob. tain it.
Sisera hearing of the approach of Barak and the Is
* Judges, Chap. iv.
raelites, raelites, assembled his warriors, and, at the head of a mighty army, went forth with all his chariots of iron to meet an enemy, whose forces appeared so inferior to his own, that without doubt, he was confident of destroying them. Barak, however, through the power of the LORD, obtained a complete victory. The army of the Canaanites was totally defeated, but Sisera escaped from the sword of Barak, and Aed away on fuot to the tent of Juel, the wife of Heber. Jael received Sisera with pretended kindness, furnished him with refreshments, and afterwards, when he lay down to repose after the fatigue of the battle, she covered him with a garment; but as soon as he was asleep, she took a large nail, and with a hammer drove it into his temple; and when Barak, who was in pursuit of him, arrived at Jael's tent, he found him dead. Thus was the prophecy of Deborah fulfilled, that the LORD would deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman.
In order to acquit Jael of treachery in this matter, we must remember, that the Israelites were strictly commanded to cut off the idolatrous nations; that Sisera was condemned to death by the LORD himself, and Jạel was ordained to execute the sentence. Jael was in a most critical situation. Had she refused to give shelter to Sisera, he would most probably have put her to death; or he might have found means, at a future time, to make head against Israel, and slaughter numbers of them ; whereas, by cutting him off, Jael would complete the victory of Barak, fulfil the will of the LORD, and gain the highest honour, by delivering the people with whom her husband was in alliance from the dread of that furious general who had so long oppressed them. This victory was celebrated in Israel with great
triumphs and rejoicings, and Deborah and Barak ex. tolled the power and goodness of the Lord in a beautiful song *.
After this, the Israelites had rest from their enemies forty years.
THE HISTORY OF NAOMI AND RUTH.
During the forty years peace which succeeded the defeat of the Canaanites, the Israelites again rebelled against the LORD, and he punished them with a grievous famine. Elimelech, a man of Bethlehem, rather than submit to the affliction which God was pleased to bring on his people for their sins, resolved to leave his pative country, and go with his wife Naomi and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion into the land of Moab. Elimelecli's endeavours to preserve his life proved ineffectual; for though he escaped the famine, he died amongst strangers, and left his family exposed to a va. riety of inconveniences.
His sons, who probably looked upon Moab as their country, and who had been educated in a very different manner from what the law of God required, had no thoughts of returning to Bethlehem, but married two Moabitish women, named Orpah and Ruth; in a few years these
young men also died. It is very likely that Naomi might at first be willing to leave her country; but the loss of her husband and sons brought her to a sense of the crime she had committed in forsaking Judea, and going to live amongst idolaters ; she therefore resolved to seek for pardon and peace, by returning to that society in which alone she could expect to enjoy them. She accordingly communicated this intention to her two daughters-inlaw, and, expressing the most fervent wishes for their happiness, bade them farewell. Both Orpah and Ruth were so affectionately attached to her, that they proposed to return with her to the land of Judah; but as Naomi was sensible that this would expose them to many distresses, she generously declined the offer, and would not consent that they should go merely on her account, fearing that they were too much inclined to idolatrous worship to conform to the law of Moses.
* Judges, Chap. v.
Orpah finding from Naomi's discourse that she had little chance of obtaining a settlement in Judah, remained in Moab, paying however the tribute of many a tender tear for the kindness which she had received from her dear mother-in-law, and then took a last adieu.
Ruth was not to be hindered by any dissuasives from accompanying Naomi; she expressed a fixed resolution to be a partaker of all her sorrows, to forsake idols, and become a true worshipper of the God of Israel. Naomi no longer resisted, she rejoiced to find that Ruth was converted, and now thought it her duty to endeavour to obtain a settlement for her amongst the Israelites. They immediately proceeded on their journey, and arrived at Bethlehem.
Those who had known Naomi in a state of affluence, were surprised at the change in her appearance; but she acknowledged the justice of God, in bringing such distresses upon the family of Elimelech, on account of their joining themselves to an idolatrous nation from a distrust of Providence.
As Naomi had no son to claim the inheritance of his father, she was utterly destitute of the means of subsistence: Ruth therefore determined to exert her utmost industry, in order to procure a livelihood for them both; VOL. II.
and as it was harvest time, she went into the fields in order to pick up the ears of corn that fell from the reapers' hands, which were the destined portion of the poor and needy: and the providence of God directed her to a part which belonged to Boaz, a man of considerable property, who was a near relation of Elimelech's, person
of excellent character. He soon distin, guished Ruth, and, making enquiries after her, was told the history of her exemplary conduct; upon which he addressed her with the utmost kindness, encouraging her to hope, that her dutiful behaviour to her motherin-law, and her piety to God, would be rewarded.
He then gave orders that she should be treated with all possible respect, and allowed to refresh herself with his provisions; he also desired that the reapers would let fall handfuls on purpose for her; so that by the evening Ruth had gleaned three pecks of barley, with which she returned to her mother, who expected her with the utmost impatience; and when she heard how kindly Ruth had been treated by Boaz, the joy of her heart brake forth in thankful acknowledgments of the goodness of GOD! Naomi then formed hopes that Boaz might be induced to marry Ruth (notwithstanding the disparity of fortune), as she had a right to require him to do so, if he was, as she supposed him to be, the next of kin to her deceased husband; she therefore gave Ruth directions how to proceed according to the Jewish customs in such cases. Ruth punctually obeyed, and obtained a promise of the farther protection of . Boaz, if another person, who he told her was a nearer relation than himself, should refuse to marry her, as he was very desirous to have a wife who had distinguished herself, as she had done, by her virtue and affection to her former husband. The other kinsman declined purchasing the inheritance of Elimelech by marrying his